Building on the success of their GNOME desktop, Ximian are to release a completely new version of the software next week, in a move that will hopefully bring Linux closer to the average user.

"Ximian Desktop 2 provides a complete productivity application suite, breakthrough usability features, and seamless Windows interoperability to enable organizations to easily and affordably deploy Linux desktops in mixed Windows/Linux environments. Innovations include an intuitive interface, the Ximian Edition of for Microsoft Office file-compatible documents, one-click Windows network navigation and easy printer setup to reduce training and support costs".

Some new features include:

* drag and drop CD burning
* built-in terminal emulation, instant messaging, chat and other applications
* third-party components (part of Ximian Desktop 2 Professional Edition only), including Agfa fonts, Adobe Acrobat Reader, Macromedia Flash, Real Player, and Java2 Run Time.

Personally, I made the switch from GNOME to KDE a while ago, but from what I have seen, XD2 may well convert me back! Some of the screenshots show a system that's highly similar to the windows world, with lots of bits and pieces previously missing from the Linux desktop built in.

More here.

Oh, and a full review here.